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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

The moment it finally sunk in for me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could pull anything off wasn’t The Avengers, or the first few successful sequels like Iron Man 3 or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was watching Guardians of the Galaxy, watching the MCU go off in a strange, colorful and fun new direction, as a space opera starring a gang of goofballs and scoundrels became one of the best movies of the last decade. So needless to say, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2017 as soon as it was announced.
To put it mildly, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has some high expectations to meet – the first film came out of nowhere to blow our collective minds, and was such a hit that we live in a pop cultural landscape where Rocket Raccoon and Groot are potentially more beloved than Superman or Batman. Those kind of surprise hits are rare, especially in superhero movies, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 won’t have the element of surprise this go around.

So can Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 get us hooked on a feeling all over again? Abso-freaking-lutely in my humble opinion.

After double crossing a race of extraterrestrial religious fanatics known as the Sovereign goes about as poorly as you’d expect, Peter Quill and the Guardians of the Galaxy get saved by an unexpected figure – a powerful alien being who claims to be Peter’s long lost father. The group splits up, some going with Quill’s father, others eventually crossing paths with Yondu and his Ravagers, who have been hired by the Sovereign to bring them in. Trust will be tested, paths and ambitions will be crossed, and before the dust settles, the Guardians may have to gear up and save the galaxy from danger once again.
If there’s ever been any weakness within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s that they have a mixed record when it comes to second instalments, with Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World typically given as examples of movies that ran in place rather than moving things forward. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have that problem, charging headfirst into tackling some of the lingering plot threads of the first movie, as well as exploring the relationship dynamics of our cast of scoundrels, be it Peter Quill finally meeting his long lost father, Gamora and Nebula working past their violent upbringing under Thanos, and even Rocket Raccoon facing his fears of pushing people away with some help from Yondu. The first Guardians movie took its time to set up a colorful cast of characters, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is happy to let them bounce off each other, and it works.

The other reason it works is that, much like the first movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has that same great sense of humor and comic timing, a wickedly smart script, and more than a few interesting detours and unexpected plot twists along the way. That’s no small feat given that the movie takes the time to explore some of the stranger corners of the Marvel cosmology, some of which has some promising potential for future MCU projects, but here and now, helps to make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 just as wild, weird and wonderful as it was the first time around.
A lot of this had to do with the fact that once again, the cast truly brought their A-game to the movie. Chris Pratt has come a long way career wise since his breakout performance as Peter Quill in the first film, and it’s great to see he still hasn’t lost his charm as Star Lord, and gets to flex some dramatic muscles in the film as it digs into his backstory. Zoe Saldana, once more as the voice of reason on a crew of mad men, Gamora, exploring her relationships with Peter and her sister Nebula, played by Karen Gillian. Michael Rooker’s Yondu gets a much more expanded role, teaming up with Bradley Cooper’s equally temperamental Rocket Raccoon, as they both wrangle with the fear that their abrasiveness is pushing people away. Dave Bautista takes something of a backseat, though he still gets some solid lines, and yes, Baby Groot is painfully adorable.
The newcomers this go around give a good show too, especially Kurt Russell as Peter’s father, whose identity I can’t quite reveal because of spoilers, but he had one hell of a big role to play, and even with a number of twists, he sticks the landing. Most of the others I can’t say too much about – again, spoilers – but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 once again boasts one of the strongest ensemble casts in the MCU, ranging from some solid character introductions, one of the best villains Marvel’s yet given us, and probably the best Stan Lee cameo yet.

Lastly, while the style and direction are not as big of a surprise as they were the first go around – director James Gunn may in time emerge as one of the brightest talents to emerge from the MCU – but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as colorful and creative as the first Guardians, and in terms of both practical effects and CGI, goes some really wild places visually. Really the one complaint I have is that the soundtrack, while still solid, is not nearly the instant classic that the first movie had.
While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not have the same lightning in a bottle magic that the first movie had, it has more than enough character growth, personal stakes and emotion to stand on its own. It delivers some of the best jokes and some of the best action this year in equal measure, is tremendously entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt. Once again, Marvel Studios is kicking off the summer movie season with a bang, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is going to be one hell of a tough act to follow. It’s one of the year’s best movies, and I urge you to rush out and see it for yourselves at once.

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